Tuesday, April 05, 2011

19. Murder over Dorval by David Montrose

Murder over Dorval is part of a new series of reprints called Ricochet Books put out by Véhicule Press, a Montreal publisher. Véhicule Press puts out a wide range of books associated with Montreal, including The Man who Killed Houdini, by my mother's cousin and Montreal chronicler, Donald Bell (which I'm ashamed to admit I stopped reading about halfway through; but I'll get to it!). The Ricochet Books are reprinting a line of Montreal pulp detective fiction from the '50s, which is just an awesome thing to do. These books are very hard, if not impossible, to find and they represent a tiny sub-genre of literature that should not be forgotten. They are also (at least judging by this one) pretty fun reads.

Murder over Dorval was an interesting book. On the surface, it's a pretty classic hard-boiled detective mystery, a bit derivative, a bit convoluted, but pretty fun with some hardcore badguys and a great set of locales. The language ranges from enjoyably rich to just too much ("her face was longer than a rainy weekend in the country"). To the fan of the genre, what will make Murder over Dorval distinct is the Montreal setting and the excessive drinking. The detective is basically wasted the entire book. What happened to Canada and alchohol? We still have great beer here, but good luck trying to get the proper drinks detective Russel Teed was putting back here. He's having a few beers for breakfast and just keeps going from there. Drinking and driving, drinking and detecting, drinking and getting his ass kicked. All in a day's work!

As a dual citizen, there was something else in this book that stood out for me, a kind of self-consciousness. It reminded me a lot of The Stringer in the way the protagonist is always telling us where he is going and who is there, trying almost too hard to assure us that things are happening here. At the same time, there is such a blind anglocentric perspective here that it makes for a weird mix. I always thought the anglo self-conscious that I encountered here was the result of being a minority, but I wonder if the Revolution Tranquille only influenced an existing solipsism. Again, it's all very subtle and such a reading could entirely be due to viewer bias, but it's a feeling I got.

I'm looking forward to the others in the series. The Body on Mont-Royal is out on shelves now and I'll be picking it up after I get through a few other books on my on-deck shelf. Brian Busby says it's the best of the bunch (how psyched would I be to find the original Harlequin version).

Oh yeah, physically, they did a really nice job with this book. A lovely full bleed cover with the original image and the ricochet logo nicely subtle. And though it goes against my environmental principles, I have to admit liking the quality feel of the paper and cover. It has heft for a paperbook. I'm also grateful that it is proper paperback size, not one of these lame "trade" paperbacks.

If you want it, you can buy it here.


Unknown said...

Wow, what a great lost period of books. I don't think I have ever seen any of those original Harlequins in my travels. Nice to see the reprints.

Kevin Burton Smith said...

The "blind anglocentric perspective" was a reality, and in reality it still cuts both ways. That's why it's called the "TWO solitudes."

There is a large segment of the current dominant (and dominating) Francophone culture that is just as ready and willing to ignore or trivialize what it feels is an inconsequential culture as Anglos of my parents' generation were.

So, stop worrying about current myths of correctness and just enjoy a pulpy, beery, two-fisted snapshot of Montreal as it really was. Not my Montreal or yours, maybe, but one my parents -- and perhaps yours -- would have recognized.

OlmanFeelyus said...

Thanks for your comment, Kevin! Christ, I just jumped over to your blog and there is an impressive amount of interesting material there that I am going to have to check out. Looks great.

I'm well aware of the Two Solitudes and am quite capable of being worried about them while enjoying a pulpy, beery two-fisted snapshot of Montreal (nice turn of phrase, that). In my own tiny (nay miniscule) way, I am trying to build a bridge between those solitudes and you can see that in my other blog, briquesduneige.

Kevin Burton Smith said...

Gee, I'll have to go over there and check it out. Anything that ties this errant Canadian, currently stationed in Soputhern California, to Montreal is worth investigating. And maybe I'll tell you my English-speaking mother's version of the Eaton's story (evidently it's the only department store in the world that refused to serve people in their own language).

By the way, I have a vested interest in all this. As a Montrealer and a detective fiction nut, I've been invited to write the intro to Vehicule's upcoming reprint of Montrose's BODY ON MOUNT-ROYAL. Hopefully I'll be paid in poutine, smoked meat and bagels.